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Safety in Swimming Pools

For those of you who are responsible for managing and operating swimming pools, you will be all too familiar with the associated risks, including drowning. Whilst the main control measure continues to be the use of trained lifeguards, there is always the potential for human error.

QLM has been, and continues to be, closely involved in supporting leisure facilities to minimise risk of drowning incidents, as well as dealing with the devastating consequences when a drowning has occurred, and the criminal and civil cases that result.

What are the alternatives?

There are a number of options, with one of the most effective being computer vision systems. There are other products around, with varying offerings and costs, but computer vision systems are covered in the recently released international standard ISO 20380:2017 “Public swimming pools – Computer vision systems for the detection of drowning accidents in swimming pools – safety requirements and test methods”. The installation of such a system, however, and ongoing maintenance costs can be seen as prohibitive, particularly when installed into an existing pool.

QLM worked with some of our leisure clients to see if there is any cost benefit to installing such a system. The case studies focussed on one particular type of surveillance system, Poseidon. Poseidon recognises texture, volume and movement within a pool. It comprises an advanced overhead and or underwater camera network that continually surveys the pool and a specialised software system that analyses in real-time the trajectories of swimmers. The system can alert lifeguards in the first seconds of a potential accident to the exact location of the swimmer in danger.

Historical data confirms that so far, this system has led to 32 lives being saved, two of which were in the UK. In addition, the Poseidon team believe there are many more successful alerts that have not been reported outside of the individual pool.

Can technology be cost effective in swimming pools?

Nine UK pools have the Poseidon computer vision system installed. Two of them installed Poseidon on the basis that they could safely reduce their lifeguard numbers and effectively achieve pay-back in 3.5 years.

So how was this achieved?

Two Charitable Trusts, Impulse Leisure Limited and The Time Capsule (Monklands) Ltd worked with QLM to determine if it was feasible to fund the installation of a computer vision system by using fewer lifeguards and at the same time reduce overall the risk of drowning. The study reviewed different options on the market and the acceptability of such an approach to enforcement authorities.

The focus of Impulse Leisure was the 33-metre pool at Blackshots Leisure Centre in Grays, Essex. The Time Capsule study focussed on the 25 metre pool in Coatbridge.

The Results: After a detailed evaluation and liaison with the HSE, the recommendation was that both organisations could each save around 2,500 hours of lifeguard costs a year, whilst still maintaining safety standards within the pools.

Both pools were ideal because they operated with a minimum of two lifeguards at all times, even during quiet times. Whilst lifeguard numbers were based on guidance in HSG179 “Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools”, paragraph 179 recognised that “computer-aided surveillance systems may also be used to assist in pool supervision”.

The HSE recognised the health and safety principle that a ‘hard’ control measure i.e. the use of using technology, helps to eliminate the human factor and can be a reliable back up to the lifeguard. Both Impulse Leisure Ltd and The Time Capsule Monklands Ltd proceeded with the installation of Poseidon in 2005.

So, some twelve years on, were the results achieved and what is the operator experience?

The CEO at Impulse Leisure confirmed that the system was installed on a principle of a 3.5 year payback, which was achieved by reducing lifeguarding at certain times from two to one lifeguard. The savings were used to fund the installation of the system into another of their pools. Blackshots Swimming Pool is still using the original overhead cameras over twelve years on.

In 2015, the system was integral in preventing a potential fatality by alerting a lifeguard to a woman partially hidden from their line of sight by her child as she got into difficulty. The lifeguard responded, and the bather was successfully rescued from the pool.

QLM is continuing to conduct pool operation reviews for pool operators to see how a drowning detection at their pool can be installed cost-effectively. After all, what is the cost of a life when we know there is technology out there that works and can be made affordable?

Contact: Quality Leisure Management Ltd, on 01451 861084 or

Quality Leisure Management Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of PHSC plc

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